No front-runner for Pope yet



Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd from the window of the Pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the scenic town where he will spend his first post-Vatican days and make his last public blessing as pope,Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. AP/Andrew Medichini

VATICAN CITY—With Pope Benedict XVI now officially in retirement, Catholic cardinals from around the world began on Friday the complex, cryptic and uncertain process of picking the next leader of the world’s largest church.

Some details are still unclear, owing to Benedict’s break with the tradition that papacies end with a Pope’s death, so these “princes of the Church” will first hold an informal session before traditional rounds of talks begin on Monday.

No front-runner stands out among the 115 cardinal electors—those aged under 80—due to enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave that picks the new Pope, so discreetly sizing up potential candidates will be high on the cardinals’ agenda.

They will also use the general congregations, the closed-door consultations preceding a conclave, to discuss future challenges such as better Vatican management, the need for improved communication and the continuing sexual abuse crisis.

Whoever succeeds Benedict will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics at one of the most problematic periods in the Church’s 2,000-year history.

“The discussion we have in the congregations will be most important for the intellectual preparation,” said Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, adding the electors were already preparing spiritually for the vote by intense prayer.

“I would imagine each of us has some kind of list of primary candidates, and others secondary,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said at a media briefing.


Most secretive election

Conclaves are among the world’s most secretive elections, with no declared candidates, no open campaigning and electors who often do not know more than a few dozen men in the room. Electors are sworn to secrecy about the actual voting itself.

George said cardinals consulted other electors before the conclave to learn more about possible choices, asking “what do you know about this candidate?” or “what kind of a person is he?”

O’Malley, at his first conclave and already being mentioned in Italian media as a potential candidate, said he had been “using the Internet a lot” to read up on other cardinals.

New Pope by mid-March?

Conclaves traditionally begin 15 days after the seat of St. Peter, as the papal office is called, becomes vacant. But that includes time for mourning and funeral ceremonies for a dead pope, so Benedict issued a decree allowing an earlier start.

From Monday, the cardinals will discuss how long they want to hold general congregations before going into the conclave; its name comes from the Latin term cum clave—with a key—to show they are locked away until a Pope is chosen.

Cardinals over 80 cannot join them in the voting, but they are allowed to attend the general congregations and discuss the challenges to the Church with the electors.

Nothing is set yet, but the Vatican seems to be aiming for an election by mid-March so the new Pope can be installed in office before Palm Sunday on March 24 and lead Holy Week services culminating in Easter the following Sunday.

Unity needed

The cardinals will not see a top secret report prepared for Pope Benedict on mismanagement and infighting in the curia, the Church’s bureaucracy. But its three cardinal authors will be in the general congregations to advise electors on its findings.

“Since we don’t really know what’s in the report, I think we’ll depend on the cardinals in the congregations to share with us what they think will be valuable for us to know to make the right decision for the future,” O’Malley said.

In an emotional farewell to cardinals in the Vatican’s frescoed Sala Clementina, Benedict appeared to send a strong message to the cardinals and the faithful to unite behind his successor, whoever he turns out to be.

The appeal was significant because for the first time in history, there will be a reigning Pope in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace and his retired predecessor living in a small monastery in the Vatican Gardens not far away.

Benedict’s resignation left the Church in unprecedented limbo and ended a pontificate shaped by struggles to move beyond clerical sex abuse scandals and reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world.

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  • bogli_anakdami

    if all the 100M+  devout katolickdick flip gung gongs pray hard, harderer & harderest, maybe kaksaker padre dumbasso archbisupsop card tagle will be next powp….

    cge, mga flip gung gongs, luhoooooooodddddd…. plis… plis… plis…. flipgod…. naman naman namannnnnn….

    • tagatabas

       Anak ng kadiliman, get away from us. Do your own business outside the catholic

  • jgl414567

    The Catholic church is indeed in crisis what with bishops like those in the CBCP who receive bribes like luxury SUV’s from a fake plundering ex-president, it’s padre damaso image (sexual abuse, RH bill debacle, etc) so vile that the faithful is fast losing faith in them.

    If they do not reform and shape up they will wake up one day and realize that they have become obsolete and without believers!

  • mangtom

    bogli_anakdami-you sound like a yabang Fil-Am. If so, you are a flip gung gong, whether you admit it or not. US citizen ka ba? Nagpakulay ka ba ng buhok at balat mo? You, hypocrite. Come down from your perch and smell the coffee. If you are pointing a finger at us, your kababayan, three of your fingers are pointing back at you-gung gong. If you don’t know it, being a US citizen is no big deal. Parang nakatikim ka ng langit-hoy, gung gong mahiya hiya ka.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      it might not be a big deal but there are hundreds of thousands of people who spend their savings and lives trying to get into the country every year. and there is always a big lineuo at american embassies of people trying to get there. just to cross the deserts into america it costs 2000 dollars just to hire a coyote who might leave you out there to die. i even know illegal flippinos living there on fake finance who used to be a friend of my wife.

  • mangtom

    you are right, Crazy_horse101010. What I was trying to say was that this jerk denigrates Filipinos by saying flip gung gong. Siya naman ay isa sa atin. Kahit US citizen siya maalis ba niya ang pagka-Filipino? I don’t think so. There are millions of Filipino-Americans who have not turned their back on the mother country. Well, of course, there are exceptions and one of them is this hound dog-Sabi ni Elvis, “you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog”. Siguro ayaw na siyang kumain ng tinapa-panay hot dog and French fries-ito ang tunay na gung gong, if there ever was one.

  • boybakal

    No front-runner for Pope yet….Of course there is front runner yet.
    This is not marathon as the Cardinals are old to be in the front much more finish the race.

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